Colorado Republicans are attacking state lawmakers who supported a proposed law allowing workers to take paid “family and medical leave” to care for a new child or a sick family member– or when they’re ill themselves.
In advertisements mailed to voters, Republicans slammed Democratic State Senate candidates Jesse Danielson of Wheat Ridge, Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood, and Faith Winter of Westminster for their support of the legislation, which would have set up an insurance fund, paid for by workers, to help compensate for lost pay due to family and medical issues.
The advertisements allege that support for the family-leave program by Danielson, Pettersen, and Winter shows that they are too partisan and should be defeated in November’s election.
“This shouldn’t be a Republican or Democratic issue,” said Beth Wolter, a Lakewood resident. “It should be a people issue, not Republican or Democrat. If you’re a Republican, your family still gets sick too.”
Wolter points to the birth of her daughter as an example of why the family-leave law is needed.
Wolter worked in a fast-food restaurant and was on the job until “five hours” before she had her daughter, and she was back at work one week later because she “couldn’t afford not to work,” especially after her husband’s employer gave him the choice of being fired or driving her to the hospital when she was in labor. He chose to be fired, she told the Colorado Times Recorder.
“When you first put your kids in day care, they get every disease known to man,” said Wolter with a laugh, recounting another story illustrating the importance of paid leave to her. “And so I had to miss a lot of time, which means I didn’t get paid, and nearly lost my apartment. This kid gets sick, then this kid gets it, and then you get it! I nearly lost my job because I didn’t have any leave time.”
Now Wolter has a job that includes paid leave, so she was able to take time off to care for her mother when she had a stroke. She thinks everyone should have this option.
Yet the Republicans’ Senate Majority Fund, which paid for the advertisements as part of its campaign to retain GOP control of the Colorado senate, states that Winter’s support for family leave, for example, is proof that she’s been voting against the “interests of her constituents.”
The Senate Majority Fund’s registered agent, Katie Kennedy, didn’t return a call seeking comment on why it opposes the paid family leave legislation, but its opposition is apparently due, at least in part, to the program’s costs, which would be paid by workers and managed as an insurance fund for use by those who need it.
Winter, who was a sponsor of the legislation, explains her support for the proposed paid family-leave law, stating on her website that “North Metro should be a place where families can live and thrive” and that she wants to “put government back on the side of working parents and families.”
“When Coloradans are welcoming a new child into their home, battling cancer, or taking care of dying parent, their families will be stronger – and they’ll perform better at work – when they can take care of their family without risking their paychecks,” she states on her website. ”
Earlier this year, the legislation passed the Colorado House of Representatives without garnering a single GOP vote, and was later killed by the Republican-controlled state senate.
Winter faces incumbent State Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik, who did not return a call seeking comment and an explanation of why Republicans were using the family-leave measure to attack her opponent, Winter.
But Republican House Majority Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock has said the proposed law would actually do the “opposite” of what it’s intended to do because the measure’s regulatory burden would add to families’ cost-of-living expenses.
The United States is the only industrialized country that does not provide paid leave from work for new mothers.
Republicans control the Colorado senate by a narrow one-seat margin, and the outcome of the races in Wheat Ridge, Lakewood, and Westminster, where the family-leave legislation has become an election issue, could determine if Democrats take the reigns of the state senate next year, political analysts say.
Correction: This post was corrected to state that Danielsen, Pettersen, and Winter are currently state representatives.